Impact Story

Makers of Win-Win Partnerships
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A Peek into History: Metallurgy in the Midwest

During the late 19th century, the discovery of rich deposits of natural resources in the Midwest positioned the region for prosperity. Mining, metallurgy and manufacturing grew rapidly hand in hand. Today, careers in metallurgy are prevalent in the region, making it a strong area of focus and attracting those interested in the study of metals. The Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE) at The Ohio State University (OSU) is no exception—so much so that the DMSE revamped their curriculum to extend and improve students’ learning experiences.  

Recently, OSU’s DSME requested a sponsorship to assist with the purchase of a hot-roll mill system for the new Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) teaching laboratory. As the largest university in the state where Worthington is headquartered, and in a field of expertise for our Company, this was an attractive request. It also aligned with Our Philosophy and was a great opportunity to support our greater community.

Sponsorship Opportunity

The DMSE had recently made a significant investment to improve its undergraduate program and capabilities, including the construction of Mars G. Fontana Laboratories, an all-new undergraduate teaching lab. New equipment was necessary to improve the educational experiences and learning opportunities for students in thermochemical processing, a field of study within metallurgy, including a critical need to replace its 40-year-old lab-scale rolling mill.

“A lab-scale rolling mill, like OSU was requesting, allows sample sizes of metals to be processed and then evaluated for changes to its properties at a metallurgical level,” explained Ben Reed, director of Technical Services at Worthington. “It’s a quick and cost-effective way to get a depiction of what will happen on a larger scale, but it’s also great for students to experiment with chemical processing and get hands-on experience.”

Rolling: Hot vs Cold

There are two common types of rolling: hot and cold. Hot rolling, as its name implies, consists of processing metals at high temperatures, allowing the metal to be reshaped and formed easily and free from internal stresses. Cold rolling is performed using cooled hot-rolled metals, and processes the metal at or near room temperature, strengthening it and allowing for more control over shape and surface finishes.

“OSU’s MSE lab was using a really old cold-roll mill, which was limiting the materials and experimentation capabilities,” said Andy Hamilton, manager, Technical Services at Worthington. “They wanted a hot roll mill with an inline furnace so students could get more hands-on experience with a wider range of processing and analysis.”

Mutually Beneficial

The teams at Worthington examined the opportunities this funding could present. Not only would it be supporting a renowned local institution, but the impact would mean a more robust lab experience for students to build skillsets directly relevant to Worthington. With nearly 500 students in the department each year, the future recruitment and employment potential would be appealing for businesses around central Ohio, including Worthington. OSU’s DSME also noted that a partnership in purchasing meant Worthington Industries would have access to the lab and its equipment for research and development needs—a useful resource to continue delivering quality solutions for our customers. 

Funding for Fontana Labs
Worthington has supported OSU in a variety of capacities for many years. “We recognize the value of having a leading institution in our backyard to help foster a thriving community. When this opportunity was presented that directly tied to our business, we jumped in with both feet,” said Sonya Higginbotham, vice president of Corporate Communications and head of the Worthington Industries Foundation. “It helped that a former Worthington employee, Elvin Beach, who now oversees the lab at OSU, was leading the effort. We know there will be significant returns on this investment for Worthington and our industry.”  The Worthington Industries Foundation contributed $125,000 to the MSE Lab Renovation Fund at Ohio State to be used for the purchase of a new hot roll mill. 

"From our undergrad curriculum to senior capstone projects to graduate research groups—the capabilities and instrumentation on this lab-scale rolling mill allow us to do experiments, both in teaching and research, that were not possible before.”

Elvin Beach, Clinical Associate Professor, OSU Department of Materials Science and Engineering

Community Commitment

The new, custom-built rolling mill was added in late 2021 and has been an integral part of learning for OSU’s MSE students. And there’s a lot of promising ideas in the works for continued collaboration to keep this partnership strong.

As for OSU’s old equipment: it continues to serve an important purpose. The cold-roll mill was refurbished and rehomed to Worthington’s Columbus, Ohio steel plant, where it’s used for testing and research. It is partnerships and strong connections like these that prove truly impactful for our community—and enable the development of our industry.

To learn more about the Worthington Industries Foundation, click here.